In the early 1900s, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) is on holiday in Florence together with her older cousin (Maggie Smith) when she’s charmed by the philosophical and progressive George (Julian Sands). The first Merchant-Ivory production to gain wide international recognition is faithful to the novel, portraying rigid conventions in Edwardian England seen from a young woman’s perspective. Carter is fine in the lead and it’s a pleasure watching Denholm Elliott, Simon Callow and Daniel Day-Lewis deliver colorful supporting performances. Handsomely staged, with lovely views of Florence and the English countryside; Richard Robbins’s music is deftly varied with bits from Puccini operas.
1986-Britain. 115 min. Color. Produced by Ismail Merchant. Directed by James Ivory. Screenplay: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Novel: E.M. Forster. Cinematography: Tony Pierce-Roberts. Music: Richard Robbins. Production Design: Brian Ackland-Snow, Gianni Quaranta. Costume Design: Jenny Beavan, John Bright. Cast: Maggie Smith (Charlotte Bartlett), Helena Bonham Carter (Lucy Honeychurch), Denholm Elliott (Mr. Emerson), Julian Sands, Daniel Day-Lewis, Simon Callow… Judi Dench.
Trivia: Rupert Everett was allegedly considered for a part. Remade as a British TV movie in 2007.
Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction-Set Decoration, Costume Design. Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actress (Smith). BAFTA: Best Film, Actress (Smith), Supporting Actress (Dench), Production Design, Costume Design.
Last word: “I wanted to go back to Italy to make a movie. I hadn’t been there for 20 years. So we asked if we could instead have the rights to ‘A Room With a View’ [rather than ‘A Passage to India’], and their faces fell. It was like, ‘What? That little novel? Why would you want to do that if you could do ‘A Passage to India’?’ But we were decisive, and they said all right.” (Ivory, Interview Magazine)